Deep Blue, Book One of The Waterfire Saga

Publisher: Disney Publishing Worldwide

Year: 2014

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One the eve of her Dokimi ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Serafina is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil.

The Story

Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromara, has been raised with the expectation – and burden – that she will someday become the ruler of the oldest civilization of the merfolk. One the eve of her Dokimi ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil. But her nightmare is forgotten the next day as she diligently practices her songspell; eagerly anticipates a reunion with her best friend, Neela; and anxiously worries about Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali, and whether his feelings toward her and their future betrothal have changed. Most of all, she worries about not living up to her mother’s hopes.

The Dokimi proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin’s arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina’s darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between mer nations. Their search will lead them to other mermaid heroines scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.

The Inspiration

Can a dress change your life?

If it was made by the late Alexander McQueen, then quite possibly yes.

I’ll explain.

Two years ago, I was casting about for a new idea for a novel, and I was coming up dry.

Which is a terrifying thing for a writer.

I’d written five historical novels and I wanted to do something new. Ghosts from the past  had inspired all my stories: A Northern LightRevolution, and the Rose books, and I was grateful to them, but I needed to get away from them.

Ghosts are beguiling creatures, but sitting with them in a room day after day is tough. They give you their stories, but take pieces of your heart in return. I was spent. I was done. My next story was going to be different.

If only I could come up with it.

Looking for inspiration, I went to the Met in New York City. The museum was staging a  retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s work. As you may know, McQueen was a clothing designer – a brilliant, troubled man who took his own life in 2010.

In hindsight, this might not have been the best place to go for ghost-avoidance.McQueen Dress

McQueen’s collections were shown in dusky jewelbox rooms and walking through them felt like walking through a dark fairytale. In some rooms, music played. In others, the wind howled and wolves cried. And the dresses – they were so beautiful and fierce, it almost hurt to look at them. They were made of cloth and thread, but of other things, too. Of antlers and skulls. Thorns, flowers, feathers.

And emotion.

Love, longing, desire, regret – these things were bound into every stitch. I could feel them. As I could feel him. McQueen. He was there, moving through those rooms.

moved through the rooms in a daze, past dresses inspired by history, pop culture, wild animals. And then I came to the last rooms, to collections inspired by the sea. And they  blew me away.

There were dresses that looked as if they’d been cut from white waves or fashioned from seaweed. There was a gown made of razorclam shells, another made of abalone. There was the sound of water lapping, and overhead – on a large screen – there was a video of a young woman sinking slowly through the water, her dress billowing around her.

Who was she? Ophelia? Viola? I didn’t know. All I knew is that I was spellbound by McQueen’s vision of the sea – a sea that was beautiful and captivating, but also treacherous and dark.

I knew then and there that I had to write a story about it.

But what would that story be? I still had no idea. I left the museum in a daze and took a train home. The minute I got in the door, my husband said, “Call Steve. Tonight. It’s important.”

Steve is Steve Malk, my agent. So, I called him and he said – and I swear I’m not making this up – ‘Hey, Jennifer, I have this project from Disney I think you might be interested in. It involves mermaids. And the sea.”

So yes, I was done with ghosts, but they weren’t done with me. Because to this day, I believe that Alexander McQueen sent me a gift from that great catwalk in the sky.

So there you have it. My new project. It’s a sea change for me on one level, I suppose, but to me, it doesn’t feel that way. It’s another story that has consumed a big chunk of my heart. Another piece of me committed to words. Another group of characters who have set up shop in my soul and are now family.

Deep Blue is as mysterious as its title suggests. And (hopefully) funny, carefully-wrought, and full of the emotion and the truth I try to bring to all of my stories.

I’m looking forward to sharing Deep Blue with my ten-year-old daughter and her friends. Theirs is an age group that I’ve long wanted to write for – one that’s fearless and full of wonder. Bemused by boys. Fierce about friendships. Standing at the borderlands of childhood, suitcases in hand.

I hope they find the mermaids of Deep Blue worthy travel companions, and that they come to love them as much as I do.

I hope you do, too.

View an Excerpt from Deep Blue:

Buy Deep Blue at, Barnes and Noble, or your local independent bookstore.


  1. Salomé Laguille says:

    Hello , my name is Salomé and I am french I had read the waterfire saga and it was revelation for me , althougt the story is exciting I was touched by the universe and the imagination , I love reading books and I love also the story of the world. I am in awe in front of the universe of these books. I read these four books in four days. I have plunged into the books as the mermaids have plunged into the mirror. You brought me an extraordinary new feeling. Thank you for all.
    I have got just a question. Is there a sequel to the waterfire saga ?
    I am sorry for the linguistic mistakes this is my fourth year of English.

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Bonjour Salomé! As of right now, there’s no sequel in the works, but maybe one day. I miss Serafina and the rest of the mers so much — and there’s still evil lurking out beneath the waves …

  2. Anna Cer says:

    Dear Jennifer,
    Y\I love you so much, you are one of my biggest inspiration as a writer. I’m corrently doing a 17 paragrapgh boock report, and I had to do Deep Blue. The romance, tragideiy, and adventure was what I love most about the book. Thank you for wrting such a magnifient story. One day I hope to wrie as well as you.

    ~ Your biggest fan, Anna

  3. Arieona Holmes says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    Im Arieona from Utah and I’m curently reading the first book of the Waterfire Saga series, Deep Blue. I never really like reading at all until I found this book and started reading. I am literally hooked to this book!! This book is my inspiration to read. And I hope one day I will be able to get the rest of the series. I have a couple questions. As I’ve been researching the rest of the series I found that there could possibly be a 5th book. Is there? And also is this series going to be a movie? Thank you

  4. Haley K. says:

    Hello Mrs. Donnelly,
    I am a big fan of your WaterFire Saga books. As soon as I saw “Deep Blue” I was pulled into the world that you created. I begged my parents to buy me the rest of series. I absolutely love your books. I often reread them. So to my questions: Have you won any awards for the WaterFire Saga? I am also recommending your book in my English class. Thanks!
    – Haley

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Yes! Deep Blue won the Green Earth Award for environmental stewardship (, and I’m incredibly proud of this award. The series is very much a plea to readers to take care of our precious water systems and the creatures who inhabit them, and it means so much to me for the books to be recognized in this way.

  5. Ashley says:

    Hello Mrs. Donnelly,
    I just want to say that this series has really changed my life. I actually picked up this series, but unfortunately set it aside when I was in high school. Recently, I decided to pick it back up and found this series not only set the imagination on fire, but it also inspires me to reach outside my comfort zone and reach for goals that I have been set aside. I went ahead and ordered the rest of the series and finished all of them about 2 days ago and I was wondering when book 5 would be coming out. Thank you, Mrs. Donnelly, for sharing this amazing world with us.

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Hi Ashley: Thank you for your lovely comments — and so happy to hear you’re stretching to pursue your goals!

      There’s no fifth book in the series in the works at this point — but maybe one day! I’d love to catch up with the merls again … I miss them!

  6. Olivia Wohlberg says:

    Your series is genuinely one of my favorite I’ve ever read in my entire life ❤ I always read it on my kindle whenever I go on a flight, and it gives me this really warm sense of wonder reading it. I was wondering why you have no plans for a book 5, as I sorely miss the characters 🙂

  7. Amelia says:

    Hello, it’s been a while since I’ve started to write. I am fifteen with a dream to be a write among others as yourself. I remember reading the waterfire saga two years and it was beyond enchanting to my emotions. It gave me inspiration to be one with my thoughts and ideas, to tell a story and illustrate a world I’ve created like the Realms of the Mer. Thank you for writing this amazing series.

  8. Danielle Spann says:

    I truly Loved these books! they were so captivating that reading them i felt as though I was apart of the story. It has inspired me to write my own story of mermaids. I really hope that one day you could continue this series! It would be even more amazing if they were to be a movie or series. I would love to see who could play the girls to get a better idea what they each would look like. Keep writing more stories Your an amazing writer!

      • Jazmin says:

        Hi I’m barely getting into the story and I have to do a 12 paragraph book report any ideas or advise . And can you please tell me how you came up with this amazing book well what I read so far . I think this is my favorite book. 🙂 thanks!!!

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